How To Choose The Oncology Setting That Fits Your Needs


       First of all, if you live in the Washington Metropolitan area you are very lucky your options are numerous and quite good across the board.

In general, a tertiary care center (university) is an ideal setting for “special procedures” like transplant or experimental protocols (although remember not all protocols are created equal, some are good and promising while others are not). Also if you have a very rare cancer, an academic center is probably a better fit for you.

       Notoriously, tertiary cancer centers are very inefficient. I know because I trained at Georgetown University Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, DC.  I have also referred patients for particular procedures to both University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins. Often it takes weeks just to get an initial consultation and once you get seen, it takes weeks to actually start the therapy. Also, patients do not realize that the day to day care is in the hands of doctors-in-training so if you have “special needs” this is not an ideal setting for you.

       Hospitals nowadays are being swallowed by large management companies that are trying to increase revenues. Outpatient infusion centers are mushrooming all over the place with comfortable lounge chairs and friendly nursing staff. What you do not realize is that hospitals can charge TEN times more for a drug compared to private practitioners. I know for a fact because my patient J.K. who received gemzar in my office for $1,200.00 was charged $12,000.00 when his therapy was administered in a hospitals infusion center. This is very important to know because if your insurance company pays only a portion of your charges, you will be left with a huge out of pocket expense. Also, it is very time consuming to get therapy in an infusion center, by the time you are registered, have your blood drawn, chemotherapy is mixed and you actually get your treatment, what would be a one hour procedure in an office setting becomes five to eight hour ordeal, which is fine if time is not an object.

       The next article will focus on additional options including private office settings. I hope you find this information helpful when choosing the right oncology setting for you.